"Never tell me the odds. Unless we're talking about KU's odds of winning an eleventh straight title. If that's the case, then please tell me odds."
-Han Solo, I think. I don't really know a lot about Star Wars
Prior to last night, KU's road to a Big 12 championship looked a little rocky. Some fans more optimistic that I were remaining positive, but at the very least things had become challenging. Kansas has lost two of their last three, and with Iowa State pulling off a tough feat in winning consecutive road games, the Jayhawks' were only half a game up on the Cyclones, with Iowa State showing an easier schedule down the stretch. Then last night, Baylor did Kansas a solid and knocked off Iowa State in Ames, giving KU a full game lead with three remaining.
It doesn't take any analysis to see that KU's chances improved greatly, but just where do they sit right now? To answer that question, I turned to Ken Pomeroy's win probabilities to give me an idea of where we stand. Now obviously, odds don't tell you everything. Both KU and Iowa State's losses this week defied the odds, as KP had each as having a roughly 70% chance of winning their games. With that said, looking at the probability can help give us a grasp on how likely or unlikely the many possible outcomes are down the stretch. I'll look at each team, their remaining schedule, and the probability of each outcome.
Kansas (11-4) in first place
Games remaining: vs Texas (75% chance of victory per KenPom), vs West Virginia (76%), at Oklahoma (33%)
If Kansas wins all three games, it won't matter what Iowa State does. The Jayhawks will win the Big 12 title outright. The chance of this happening (again, just according to Ken Pomeroy's figures) is 19%, meaning it plays out this way roughly once out of every five times.
Winning two of these three guarantees KU at least a share of the title, or an outright title if ISU stumbles one more time. Obviously, the most likely way for this to happen is for KU to take care of business at home. There's about a 57% chance of winning both these games, or just under three in five. The overall chances of winning two or more out of the remaining three sit at 68%. This means that, irrespective of what Iowa State does in their last three games, Kansas has a 68% chance of at least do what it would currently take to win the title. This doesn't mean that they only have a 68% chance of winning the title, but I'll get to that in a bit.
If Iowa State were to drop a game, Kansas needs only to win one of their remaining three to share the title with them. The probability of winning at least one of these three games is, obviously, very very good: 96%
Iowa State (10-5) in second place
Games remaining: at Kansas State (66%), vs Oklahoma (59%), at TCU (54%)
We saw that Kansas' likelihood of winning all three of their remaining is not great, but the same can be said for Iowa State, though the odds are slightly better. Iowa State has just a 21% chance of running the table. While it seems like Iowa State and Kansas both winning out is a fairly likely outcome, these figures give it just a 4% chance of happening.
It's most likely that Iowa State wins two out of these three games. There's about a 43% chance of this happening in some combination. This mean's Iowa State's chances of winning at least two of their last three is 64% (leaving a 36% chance of winning one or less).
The chances of a Jayhawk Big 12 title
The vast majority of possible outcomes, and perhaps more importantly, the majority of likely outcomes involve Kansas winning at least a share of the title. If KU wins all three, it's over. If KU wins two, it's over. If KU wins only one, ISU has to win all three. In the end, per KenPom's numbers, Kansas has a 97% chance of taking home at least a share of their eleventh straight Big 12 title.
The way things have gone in the Big 12 this year, I refuse to count any chickens at this point. That said, things are looking pretty good right now.